Research School Network: Making worked examples work – part 2 In his second blog, Amarbeer Singh Gill looks at how setting foundations results in better use of worked examples in lessons.


Making worked examples work – part 2

In his second blog, Amarbeer Singh Gill looks at how setting foundations results in better use of worked examples in lessons.

by Greenshaw Research School
on the

In part 1 we looked at the theory behind when worked examples can be helpful/​harmful. In this post we’ll explore how that foundation sets us up to make better use of them within our lessons. The EEF’s FAME approach provides a great starting point for this.

Principle 1: Start with fully…

When introducing a new concept or one that students are likely to have forgotten (ie when students can be considered novices’), we should use fully scaffolded examples1.

We want to draw students’ attention to the key concepts/​procedures that we’re explaining by limiting the amount of things we’re asking them to attend to, and being clear and succinct in our explanations. This can be aided by using concrete examples of abstract ideas2 (eg rather than just providing a definition of a polygon, show students some concrete examples) as well as non-examples3 (eg explicitly demonstrating why a circle doesn’t fit in the definition of polygon).

We can also use the Explanation’ part of the FAME approach, by prompting students to self-explain what’s going on in each step and why that is the case4.

Principle 2: Provide students with…

Prior to transitioning to fully independent practice we can provide students with some scaffolds to more gradually increase the level of difficulty, making the change more manageable – like stabilisers on a bicycle. One way of doing this is through fading5, where we slowly remove certain steps of working one (or a few) at a time:

Fully-worked example (accompanied with an oral explanation)Partially solved-example
Expand: 3 (y – 8)

3 (y – 8) = 3y – 24
Expand: 5(y – 8)

5 (y – 8) = 5y………

There is some evidence that suggests removing in reverse order (starting from the final step required) can be more beneficial for students6. In doing this students are still having to think hard about the learning, but we are managing that load carefully to minimise the chances of them becoming overwhelmed.

We could also use example problem pairs7. This is where we provide students with a very similar question to the one we’ve modelled with only minimal changes, such as the example below:

Fully-worked example (accompanied with an oral explanation)Problem
Expand: 3(y – 8)

3(y – 8) = 3y – 24
Expand: 5 (y – 8)

In this strategy, they have to execute the whole procedure by themselves, but they have the support of being able to see a fully-worked example at the same time, which can prevent them from having to hold the previous answer in their mind whilst working out a new one. 

In situations where there are a number of steps involved we can adopt the Alternation aspect8 of the FAME approach by introducing small parts of the whole procedure gradually, before bringing it all together.

Principle 3: Use whole-class response…

Having used fully and partially guided examples, we could then use techniques such as mini-whiteboards or hinge-point questions9 to see if there are any remaining misconceptions or mistakes in students’ working.

This will allow us to either provide quick feedback to correct any mistakes/​misunderstanding and then gauge whether we need to: 

a) go back and reteach if a high rate of errors continues 

b) move students on to independent work if we a high rate of correct responses is seen or

c) move on those students who were correct whilst supporting those students for whom certain mistakes were still persisting. 

We can also use the Mistakes aspect10 of the FAME approach to extend and provide additional challenge for those students who need it. We can display intentionally incorrect solutions and ask students to spot and correct the error(s) present.

Finally, all of these ideas are designed to direct students’ attention to what we want to achieve right now, so what underpins all of this is clarity of purpose. Being clear about things like if we want students to follow a procedure, to execute it, to recognise it, or to apply it in an unfamiliar context is crucial in deciding how much support they’ll need initially, and how quickly it can be removed.


Amarbeer Singh Gill

Lead Practitioner of Maths



1 Clark, Kirschner, & Sweller. (2012).

2 The Learning Scientists. (2016). Learn to Study Using… Concrete Examples. – 1

3 Open University Mathematics Education. (2019). Using Examples in the Maths Classroom.,et%20al.%2C%202006)%20.

4 Education Endowment Foundation. (2022). Using Worked Examples to Support High Quality Teaching; The FAME Approach.



7 McCrea, E. (2019). Making Every Maths Lesson Count: Six principles to support great maths teaching (Making Every Lesson Count series). Crown House Publishing Ltd.

8 Education Endowment Foundation. (2022).

9 STEM Learning. (n.d.). Assessment for Learning: Hinge Point Questions.

10 Education Endowment Foundation. (2022).

More from the Greenshaw Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more